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San Antonio Probate Blog

Having standing and grounds crucial to probate litigation

Feelings of discontent over the details of a will are not uncommon after a person's passing. Some individuals may feel as if they did not get their fair share but do not have reason to formally question why the decision was made. However, other parties may have reason to move forward with probate litigation if there are serious concerns about the validity of the will.

In order to contest a will in court, Texas residents must have something to potentially gain or lose in the event that the document is considered invalid. These parties could be individuals or businesses, may be named in the document itself or have legal standing under state intestate laws in regard to inheriting assets. Though any interested party can bring a claim, some legal connection is necessary.

Selling a decedent's assets could lead to probate litigation

Disputes among family members are not altogether uncommon. When the disputes arise after a loved one's death, however, they can be particularly difficult to address. In some cases, if a family member is providing false information about a person's will or lack thereof, probate litigation could ensue.

Texas readers may be interested in one person's experience with this type of predicament. Apparently, the person's sister was taking care of their ailing mother. However, the person believes that the sister did not properly care for their mother and contributed to her ill health due to having her live in dirty conditions. After the mother's passing, the caretaker sister claimed that no will existed and that she had started selling some of their mother's belongings.

Named executors do not always suit the role

When a deceased individual's estate needs closing, someone needs to be in charge of the process. This person is typically referred to as an executor or an estate administrator, and hopefully, the decedent will have appointed someone to this role in his or her will. Of course, not everyone takes that planning route.

Now that your loved one has passed, you may have concerns about who will act as the executor. There are different ways in which a person could be appointed, and naming an individual in one's will is only one example. Other actions may be necessary if the person did not have a will or if other extenuating circumstances apply.

Beneficiary issues could put retirement accounts through probate

Having a retirement account can be a useful safeguard for those golden years. Of course, some individuals will pass away with money still in those accounts, and as a result, those remaining funds will need to be distributed to the appropriate parties. Does that mean retirement accounts go through probate?

Retirement accounts can avoid probate if the account holders name beneficiaries to those accounts. However, in Texas, a spouse is entitled to half of a decedent's retirement assets. As a result, if the decedent named a person other than his or her spouse as the beneficiary of a retirement account, the surviving spouse could have reason to make a claim to half of those funds. If this happens, the account will need to go through probate to address the issue.

Receiving assets as a beneficiary during probate

Any type of legal process has terms that many people may not fully understand. For instance, some Texas residents may know that they have been named beneficiaries in their loved ones' estate plans, but they may not fully understand what that means. They may also not understand what part they play in the probate process.

When it comes to being a beneficiary, it typically means that a person is in line to receive an asset or assets from a deceased individual's estate. The decedent will have utilized legal documents to formally name the person as the beneficiary. If named to a retirement account, bank account, insurance policy or other payable on death account, the assets will pass directly to the beneficiary after the account holder's passing.

Probate litigation ensues as executrix seeks beneficiary change

When information relating to a person's estate has not been updated, it is not uncommon for conflict to result. Some individuals may find themselves in probate litigation as they fight for the outcomes they believe best suit the situation. Unfortunately, this type of action can be cumbersome.

Texas readers may be interested in an estate dispute currently underway in another state. According to reports, the executrix of an estate is attempting to have the beneficiary designation of the decedent's retirement account changed. Apparently, a beneficiary designation had been made in 1997 that left the account to the decedent's sister. However, a will created in 2015 stated that his residence should be left to his wife and that all other assets of the estate should go to the executrix, a woman who is not his wife.

Conflicting estate planning tools may cause probate issues

When individuals create their estate plans, they often take advantage of multiple planning tools. While this action can be useful in order to create a comprehensive plan, it can cause problems for executors during probate if different tools have conflicting information. When this happens, the process can become more difficult or even lead to disputes.

Two tools that many Texas residents use during planning are wills and revocable trusts. Wills, as most people know, are commonly used tools that express individuals' wishes for various topics, including guardianship and distribution of assets. A revocable trust, or a living trust, goes into effect as soon as it is created, and assets can be placed into the trust and removed from the ownership of the estate. Because the trust goes into effect before a will, which only plays a part after a person's death, the trust typically takes precedence in the event that a conflict between the documents arises.

Is an affidavit of heirship right for your parent's estate?

After your parent has died, you and your siblings have many things to take care of. You must see to the funeral arrangements, comfort loved ones who come from out of town and support one another in your grief. When these urgent matters pass, you will begin to focus on settling your parent's estate.

The last thing you want to deal with at this difficult time is a long and frustrating probate, especially if your parent had a simple estate with no debts. You and your siblings may agree that the best thing to do is to sell the house and its contents, divide the proceeds, and return to your normal lives. Since probate can take the better part of a year, you may wish to learn more about your options, including the affidavit of heirship.

Receiving a copy of the will before probate

After a Texas loved one's death, the information he or she left behind in an estate plan can be immensely important. His or her will can indicate who should receive certain assets and who should handle the probate process. Of course, surviving loved ones may be interested in who can see the contents of the will.

In reality, once the will goes into the public record after court validation, anyone could look at the document. However, it is usual for the executor named in the will, any guardians appointed in the document and named beneficiaries to receive a copy of it. If the estate has an accountant, that person will likely also receive a copy to better address financial matters associated with probate, such as what the will may say about compensation for the executor.

Settling an estate through probate can be complicated

Settling a Texas loved one's final affairs can be a complicated and emotional process. Hopefully, the decedent will have left a will behind that can provide useful instructions on how to carry out certain tasks. However, probate will still be necessary in order to close the estate.

Though probate is commonly necessary, not all assets have to go through the process before they can be distributed. In some cases, parties may have had joint property with survivor's rights, which means that the property will pass directly to the surviving joint owner. In other instances, individuals may have had payable-on-death or transferable-on-death accounts that allow them to name beneficiaries to directly receive the assets in those accounts after the account holder's passing.

Aldrich Law Firm, PLLC

Aldrich Law Firm, PLLC
8700 Crownhill Blvd.
Suite 200
San Antonio, TX 78209

Phone: 210-418-1150
Fax: 210-598-7221

8700 Crownhill Blvd. | Suite 200 | San Antonio, TX 78209
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